Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

Article Index

 

W. H. Ryus Enters Second Contract With Stage Company, Messenger and Conductor of the U. S. Mail and Express.

The spring of 1864 I left the services of the stage company and came to Kansas City, Kansas, where my parents lived.

In June of that year I bought a team, mowing machine and wire hay rake and entered into a contract to furnish hay to the government. I took my hay-making apparatus out on the prairie, about ten miles from Kansas City, and cut several hundred tons of hay which I sold to the government quartermaster at Kansas City.

During the summer of that year Confederate General Price made his famous raid through Westport, going South with his army, followed by the Federal soldiers.

There were upwards of 3000 of the Federal militia, and while on the road from Westport to Kansas City they became frightened and stampeded. They heard that Price's army was coming toward them from Westport. It was an exciting scene to see men acting like wild men.

The militia posted at Kansas City, Kansas, consisted of troops from the counties of Brown, Atchison and Leavenworth and were under a newspaper man's command, an editor from Hiawatha, Kansas, whose name I do not recall. The governor of Kansas ordered this major to take his militia and go to the line and protect Kansas City, Missouri, from Price's raiders. The soldiers refused to go with their major in command. However, they agreed to go to Missouri if their major would resign in favor of Captain James Pope of Schuyler County New York, who was in command of a militia of Kansas soldiers. This was done and Captain Pope was made major and took charge of the several different companies besides his own.

At about ten o'clock in the forenoon in the latter part of July the militia then started to go over into Missouri after Gen. Price. I went along with the militia, and as we were approaching Westport we caught sight of several thousand stampeding soldiers, going as fast as their legs would carry them.

I rode up alongside of Major Pope and said, "There's a stampede, see them coming! I will make my horse jump the fence and run up to them and tell them Price's army is coming the other way." Major Pope' replied, "Go a-flying." He halted his troops and I rode through the fields toward the stampeding soldiers, yelling to them and their officers that Price's army was coming toward them from Kansas City. This checked them and gave them a chance to collect their wits.

The officers of the stampeded troops then called to the soldiers, "The rebels are coming this way, right-about-face." By the time the stampeded troops were brought to a halt they were face to face with Major Pope's regiment. Major Pope being an old soldier, understanding military tactics, went to the south end of the stampeded troops, took charge of them and commanded them to right-about-face and started south for West-port on a double-quick time.

After the militia had gotten under way I put my horse under the dead run and caught up with the Union soldiers who were in pursuit of Price's army at Indian Creek, twenty miles from Westport.

As it was now growing late I thought best to return to Kansas City. On my way back I again came in contact with Major Pope with the militia and told him that it was impossible for them to catch up with Price's raiders or the other Union forces, for they were going on the dead run. I told him that he might just as well go into camp, which he did, greatly to the relief of his almost exhausted troopers.

The next day Major Pope was ordered back to Kansas City to guard the city in case the rebel soldiers should undertake to raid it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dear reader, please accept my apologies for having left my original subject and brought you back to the Civil war. Back to the Santa Fe Trail for me.

When I got in home at Wyandotte, Kansas, now Kansas City, Kansas, a messenger from the stage company was awaiting my arrival. He came to get me to enter into a contract to again enter the services of the stage company as conductor and messenger of the United States mail and express from Kansas City across the long route to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I took the position and started out the next morning.

My first noted passenger after I became conductor of this stage coach was the son of old Colonel Leavenworth, for whom Leavenworth was named, and who built the fort about the year of 1827.

After leaving Kansas City and getting settled down to traveling, Col. Leavenworth Jr.'s first words to me were, "Have you been on the plains among the Indians long?" I replied that I had been driving the mail among them for three years. His next question was, "Do you know, or have you ever heard of Satanta, the great chief of the Kiowas?" I told him that I had seen him several times and had given him many a cup of coffee with other provision. Col. Leavenworth Jr. seemed greatly pleased with my answer and told me that he had a great affection for old Satanta and that he was one of the nobles of his race, and also one of the best men he had ever known regardless of race. Young Leavenworth delighted in telling his exploits among the Indians and I was no poor listener, for it always entertained me to hear some one give praise to my Indian friends. Mr. Leavenworth told me that a great many of the different tribes of Indians came to Fort Leavenworth to see his father and that he had never had any trouble with them, however remote. At that time young Leavenworth was a ten-year-old boy and a great favorite of Satanta, the Kiowa chief. Leavenworth Jr. told me that he had gone on several hunting trips with Satanta and be gone as long as two weeks away from his father's fort. He told me that at one time when he had been away from home two years at school in St. Louis that Satanta and his tribe were there to welcome him home. The old chief wanted him to go on the prairie with them to hunt the buffalo and be gone several weeks, so Leavenworth Jr. told him that he would have to talk to his father about it. Accordingly Satanta went to old Colonel Leavenworth and told him that he wanted to take young Leavenworth on an extended hunting trip and might go over into Colorado and other western states. The old colonel was reluctant to let the child go with his strange friends and told Satanta that if his tribe should become involved in trouble with the whites the boy might be killed. Satanta said "no such ting." Santanta told the father that no matter what war they got into they would protect the boy and return him home safe and well. When Satanta's whole tribe came in off the plains at the specified time they all entered into an agreement to protect the boy at any sacrifice if he was permitted to accompany them on the hunt. In their language they took the oath to protect the boy, each one sworn in separately, and it was agreed that Satanta would send two of his warriors to the nearest army post every week to tell his father that the boy was all right. The boy always wrote brilliantly of his travels in the wild western country. His father considered with much pride reserved all these boyish letters which are masterpieces of landscape and scenic description. Copies of these letters are still on file in the war libraries and are set aside as "things of beauty."

Young Leavenworth in talking to me about his travels with Satanta told me that they got into the mountains about thirty days after they left Fort Leavenworth and located in about where Cripple Creek is now located. He said the Indians found and gathered considerable gold. In two places in particular the gold in the sands of the creek bed was very rich. They gathered gold for him and put it in a buckskin sack. What this gift amounted to in dollars and cents I have forgotten, but it amounted to several hundred dollars. He was gone three months. That was the last time he ever saw Satanta. He was sent East after that to a military school. At the time he was crossing the trail with me he had only recently become a colonel in the Union army and was ordered to Fort Union to take charge of some New Mexico troops.

John Flournoy of Independence, Missouri, was one of the drivers on the Long Route. When we were at Fort Larned, Colorado, Leavenworth inquired of John if he knew where Satanta or any of his tribe were. John told him they were on the Arkansas river not far from old Fort Dodge.

We stopped at Big Coon Creek to get our supper, that was twenty-two miles from where the Indians camped. (We only cooked twice a day, supper was about four o'clock, then we drove long after nightfall). After starting on our journey about five o'clock, going over the hills down to the Arkansas river, we came in sight of the Indian camp which was some ten miles distant. At this camp there were perhaps thirty thousand Indians. At about nine o'clock we were within three miles of their camp and could hear distinctly the drums beating and Indians singing. Col. Leavenworth said, "That is a war dance, now we must find out the cause of the excitement." There were no roads into the camp and we couldn't get the mules to venture any further on account of the scent of green hides always around an Indian camp, so Col. Leavenworth Jr. and I got off the coach and walked in as close as we consistently could. Soon we saw an Indian boy and Col. Leavenworth asked him in Indian language what was going on at the big camp. The boy told him that the Kiowas and the Pawnees had been at war with each other and that two of the Kiowas had been killed and one of the Pawnees. They had secured the scalp of the Pawnee and had fastened it to a pole, one end of which was securely planted in the ground, and were mourning around it for their own dead. An Indian thinks he is shamefully disgraced if one of his tribe gets scalped. They will go right to the very mouth of a cannon to save their tribe of such disgrace. Col. Leavenworth says, "I tell you, Billie, I was afraid that some of the whites had been disturbing the Indians, but I knew if I could but get word to Satanta we would be safe." When the boy told us how matters really stood our "hair lowered" and Col. Leavenworth asked the boy to take us to Satanta's tent.

When we reached Satanta's tent the Indian boy went in and told him that a white man wanted to see him. The old chief came out--we were about twenty feet from the tent--he looked at Colonel Leavenworth first, then at me, whom he recognized. He walked up to within a few feet of Colonel Leavenworth, eyeing him sharply. Colonel Leavenworth spoke his name in the Indian language. Satanta looked at him amazedly--he had not seen him since he had developed into a man and could not realize that this was the favored idol of his hunting trip through the Rocky mountains of Colorado so many years ago. After this moment of surprise had subsided Satanta gave one savage yell and leaped toward Leavenworth Jr. His blanket fell off and he patted the cheek of the colonel, kissed him, hugged him, embraced him again and again, then turned and took me by the hand, grasping it firmly. He gave me a thrilling illustration of his joy over the return of his old-time boy friend which impressed me with the sincerity and true instinct of the Indian attachment for his friends. Satanta called Col. Leavenworth "ma chessel."

[Illustration: "SATANTA."]